Berkeley Patients Group: In U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag’s Crosshairs

Berkeley Patients Group: In U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag's Crosshairs

California’s U.S. attorney Melinda Haag has not earned many friends within the medical marijuana community recently. After saddling Steve D’Angelo’s Harborside collective with unwanted litigation and threats to their landlord, she has now turned her sights on Berkeley’s most popular dispensary, Berkeley Patients Group.

You see, in the California state medical marijuana system, cannabis has been historically produced by patient cultivators or their designated caregivers, and is primarily distributed collectively through nonprofit dispensaries. Dispensaries are allowed to reimburse their members for the cost of producing this medicine, which has created a booming cottage industry of patient cultivators.

However, very few cities or counties license and regulate cultivation, and most medical marijuana comes from small home-based growers. By contrast, in the Netherlands, medical cannabis is produced in 120 pound increments, and each batch can be tested one time for potency and contamination. In California, most medical cannabis generally comes in 1 pound increment’s, necessitating a complex evaluation for each unit.

Furthermore, the ban on scientific research and testing of cannabis products has left a massive vacuum of methodology. Medical marijuana collectives, in addition to serving members, have to develop reliable quality control methods on their own. This was where the Berkeley patients group has historically been leading the way, creating validated methodology for rating the potency and screening for contaminants in medical cannabis. As a matter of protecting their patients, the Berkeley patients group has a unique method of procuring cannabis for their collective members which has been crafted over years of experience.

Since forming in 1999, their joint experience as cannabis cultivators, clone producers, and medical cannabis patients, as well as aficionados has shaped a successful method of determining quality and potency. Growing cannabis is far from easy, but consistently growing medical grade cannabis is an art form unto itself.

With the recent announcement by U.S. Attorney, Melinda Haag that she intends to crush the Berkeley Patients Group, many in the community are up in arms – including Berkeley’s Mayor, Tom Bates. BPG have historically gone out of their way to enact policies to treat all equally, with courtesy and respect. Unlike some of the lesser regulated collectives, BPG only accepts medicine from members of the collective, as the law requires a closed loop of supply and distribution. When a new patient cultivator arrives at the Berkeley patients group, they are often nervous with all of their expectations, fears, debts and livelihood mixed into one small bag of potent cannabis.

They are taken back into a private area to discuss the medicine they’ve cultivated. BPG – trained screeners ask a variety of questions about the methods used to cultivate this specific strain of marijuana, while making sure to protect the privacy of the patient cultivator. For example, they don’t ask questions about the specific address of the cultivation site, the names of the cultivators involved (beyond verifying their member status), or any other question that may compromise the safety of the members. The purpose of these questions is to determine if any of the methods used for cultivation included items on the “no list” such as harmful pesticides or inorganic fertilizers.

Rather than doing good for the California communities she represents, US attorney Melinda Haag is wreaking havoc on the few collectives that have bothered to follow the intent and letter of the law.